If you and your spouse have children together and have decided to divorce, it is important to understand that your relationship will not end simply because your marriage does. Instead, it will be transformed into a different type of relationship in which you function as co-parents rather than spouses. One way to help get your co-parenting relationship off to a good start is by settling your divorce through the mediation process instead of through traditional litigation.
How does divorce mediation work?
Divorce mediation is a method of reaching a divorce settlement outside of court. It allows you and your spouse to negotiate an agreement that works for both of you rather than putting the decision in the hands of a judge.
The divorce mediation process takes place with help from a trained professional called a mediator. The mediator's job is not to make decisions or take sides, but rather to guide you and your spouse through a structured negotiation process of identifying your goals and priorities, communicating constructively and working toward a mutually agreeable outcome.
Why is mediation good for parents?
One of the greatest benefits of divorce mediation is that it is a collaborative process rather than a competitive one. Unlike conventional litigation, which tends to pit one parent against the other, the purpose of mediation is to reach an outcome that accommodates the needs of everyone involved to the greatest extent possible.
As a result, divorce mediation has the potential to greatly reduce the negative emotions and combativeness that often arise when a marriage ends - thereby minimizing some of the most common roadblocks to successful co-parenting after divorce. This can not only make the transition easier for you and your spouse, but also for your children.
Another reason to consider a mediated divorce if you have children is that it offers a lot of flexibility. That flexibility allows you and co-parent to be as creative as you wish when it comes to hammering out the details of your parenting plan. This can be especially useful for planning holidays and vacations, as well as for parents who have unusual schedules or live in different areas.
When is mediation not recommended?
Although divorce mediation offers some great potential benefits over the typical divorce process, it is not right for every situation.
In particular, mediation usually is not recommended if there is a history of domestic violence in your marriage or if you are otherwise afraid for your physical safety. It may also be less effective if only one of you is willing to commit to the mediation process, since its success depends on both of you making an honest effort.
What if it doesn't work?
An important thing to understand about divorce mediation is that you do not have to agree to anything you don't want to. If you and your spouse are not able to reach an agreement through mediation, you can still use the traditional litigation process to settle any remaining issues.